Sufjan Stevens’ latest music video is an undead insight into upcoming Christmas release

Not long ago the rumours of a new Sufjan Stevens album buzzed across my social media feeds like a drunk wasp on a waltzer. So when the video for ‘Mr Frosty Man’ was unleashed onto the internet, before the eyes of expectant indie enthusiasts and Christmas fans alike, I was delighted to see for myself these hopeful whispers bear fruition.

Normally I’m hesitant to discuss anything relating to the Yuletide period outside of December, but in this case, what with Halloween having descended upon us last week, this visual masterpiece is quite an apt way to wave off the spookiest day of the autumn season and ring in the winter months.

Reminiscent of a more gruesome Nightmare Before Christmas, the video might not win any marathons (lasting just 2:01 minutes, a brief sneeze of time) but it certainly packs an undead punch . Without spoiling the climax for anyone, ‘Mr Frosty Man’ tells the tale of a snowman who comes to life in an attempt so save his creator from a nuclear zombie attack. The usual, you’re probably thinking? Well no, of course not, but let’s remember that Stevens can be fairly unpredictable and according to director/master of claymation  Lee Hardcastle, his creations ‘are not for children’.

As a fan of the vast majority of Stevens’ back catalogue, I believe I won’t be alone in saying that ‘Mr Frosty Man’ is hardly a mind-blowing addition to his oeuvre. However, it’s still a welcome return to the forefront from the Detroit-born multi-instrumentalist. If this video is anything to go by, a lot more adventure is hopefully in store on this upcoming release, which ties into what is more traditionally a time of peace. I welcome any seasonal shake up Stevens has to offer.

Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10 is a five-EP box set of Christmas-related songs and carols recorded by Stevens between 2006 and 2012. It serves as a follow up to Songs for Christmas, released six years ago and will be available on November 13th.


Beck’s sheet music album is a wake-up call

It’s been revealed this week that slacker-turned-seminal musician Beck will be releasing a brand new album this December. Great news you’re thinking? Well it is, but mainly for those with the ability to read sheet music.

Song Reader, the name of this new release, will comprise of 20 booklets, one for each individual song. These will include lyrics and music notations for a variety of instruments, all of which will be handily presented in a hard-cover carrying case detailed with designs from over a dozen artists.

Beck claims that Song Reader is a way of delving into ‘what an album can be at the end of 2012’. Renditions interpreted by fans and select musicians of these previously unreleased and, more importantly, unrecorded tracks will be featured online via publisher McSweeney’s website.

Now this kind of thing could be easily perceived as hipster nonsense, harping back to the gramophone era in the middle of the digital takeover. Certainly I think there may well be an element of profiting from false nostalgia, releasing an entirely new project in a retro format, albeit incidental or otherwise. However, there’s more to this venture than that.

At face value it’s a musical experiment, and a lavish one at that. Moreover, it’s also a pretty bold statement – a two-fingered salute to illegal downloads, intentional leaks and the dominance of online music sales compared to physical purchases. Song Reader is an intervention for those that have fallen into the habit of passively adding releases to their collection at the click of a finger. It calls for enthusiasm, participation and the realisation that although YouTube and iTunes clearly have their uses, there is more to music than an MP3.

What Beck has created is a wake-up call. Music is a craft not just a commodity.